Facebook and other social technologies were supposed to help business-to-business marketers more effectively influence their customers' purchasing decisions. But a new study by Forrester Research suggests that, while business buyers may be using social networks and other tools in their enterprise and personal lives, Web 2.0 social technology isn't affecting their decisions when it comes to purchasing business solutions.
IBM, Microsoft, SAP
and other companies might be pouring massive amounts of cash into marketing via
social technologies, but according to a new study by Forrester, Web 2.0
techniques aren't what compel a business buyer to purchase a particular
According to the study, some 77 percent of surveyed business decision makers
use social media and messaging and collaboration applications on the job,
whether publishing a Web page, posting comments or using Facebook.
But when it comes to being swayed to spend their dollars on business
technology, 84 of the surveyed decision makers were more likely to rely on word
of mouth from peers and colleagues, while 45 percent said they were swayed by
forums, online communities and social networks.
"Like bright, shiny objects glistening in the sun, new
social tools catch marketers' attention but cause them to look away from
buyers' needs and business objectives," the report stated. "B2B
[business to business] marketers succeed when they first understand how buyers
approach Social Computing and then design programs that map their business
objectives to buyers' social proclivities."
To read about Facebook's new APIs, click here.
The report suggests several reasons for marketers'
disconnect, including lack of social media experience, rapid technology changes
that have left them playing catch-up, some executives being reluctant to engage
with new technology and a simple unawareness of how decision makers use social
Nonetheless, the study found that business decision makers use a variety of
social media within the context of their jobs:
Some 27 percent reported publishing a blog or Web page,
uploading video or music or posting articles online-a group the study termed "Creators."
Another 37 percent, called "Critics," posted reviews of
products or services and commented on blogs or online forums.
Another 29 percent, "Collectors," used RSS feeds, voted for
Web sites and added tags to Web pages. Also at 29 percent were the "Joiners,"
who utilized Facebook or other social networking sites.
A full 69 percent, deemed "Spectators," participated more
passively in online activities by reading blogs and forums and online reviews,
listening to podcasts, and watching video uploaded by others.
Another 23 percent were "Inactives" who did
not participate in any of these online activities for work purposes.
In sum, these decision makers are more active with regard to social media
than the general population-and yet, the study asserts, marketers still have
problems reaching out to them via technology.
"I think [B2B] marketers are conservative, and this conservatism comes
from a lot of areas," Laura Ramos, an analyst with Forrester and co-author
of the study, said in an interview. "They don't have a lot of experience
with these newer capabilities and tactics, so they don't know what a good e-mail
marketing campaign looks like, or if they should be spending more on Webinars
or putting ads on Facebook."
Ramos added, "Because there's less of a track record, they struggle and
throw their hands up and say, 'I'm going to go with what I know.' With new
social media, you know people are doing it, and it sounds like a good idea, but
you can't just throw up a blog and expect to get solid leads in the
Fortunately, the study also makes some recommendations for marketers looking
to get a message before the eyes of decision makers.
The first is to "fill in buyer-and buying process-knowledge gaps"
to see which buyers purchase IT solutions and whether social media is a viable
avenue through which to pursue them. After that comes modeling behavior,
followed by integrating social media into the marketing mix.
The last step for marketers and solution sellers is,
perhaps inevitably, to prepare to accept criticism. "Encouraging social
community participation is an inexact, unclear process, so expect mistakes and
painful lessons along the way," the report warned. Indeed.